There has been a storm of concerned armchair economics gurus that has come out of the woodwork over the past few months. I've become steadily more angry at seeing people trot out tired old theories that show a deep misunderstanding of even the most basic facts about money and wealth.
You can learn more about economics by playing Alpha Centauri than by reading Marx.
But almost all games suffer from an oversimplified economic rule set. This is to avoid getting in the way of whatever the "real" gameplay is. I would like to turn that on its head and theorize a game about economics.
Here are the restrictions:
1) The theoretical game must be massively multiplayer (or massively singleplayer, a'la Spore).
2) It must contain interesting non-economic gameplay (typically, various kinds of killing).
3) The economic rules must emerge from simple fundamentals rather than by complex fiat (IE, no arbitrary money sinks, no specific "B happens if you raise taxes").
4) The game must contain zones, modes, or other variations that change the fundamental rules somewhat to highlight the different economic results that occur when rules change.
5) It must highlight the difference between MONEY and WEALTH.
All the examples I can think of are constructive, rather than the "static state" worlds of WoW or WoW, WoW, or maybe WoW. For example, my first instinct is a space empire game like Masters of Orion, but with far less focus on war and far more focus on the amount of time it takes to travel through space. By having specific resources obtained only from specific star systems, you would be able to stress the costs of shipping this product (or derivatives) all around the empire.
The game would require somewhat arbitrary use of fundamental materials to build products. For example, building an acropolis might require explicitly listed goods in addition to research, time, and labor. These are somewhat arbitrary sinks, but at least they make sense.
The game would also highlight the difference between a new economy and a mature economy as you expand and build up your planets. You could also have "low-traction" zones where travel happens faster, or low-fuel zones where you're forced to stick to light speed in order to make it economically viable...
You have any ideas?